When considering whether to homeschool for the first time, many parents experience a whirlwind of questions. Do I need special permission to pull my child out of public school? Do I need specific qualifications to teach my child? Isn’t it expensive to homeschool? What about sports and extracurricular activities? The mental shift from not being in charge of much of your child’s education to making all of the decisions can be overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be. Let’s break down the details of pulling your child out of public school.
Is It Legal?
Yes. Every state allows for it, but the requirements vary from state to state. A great place to start in determining what is required is the Home School Legal Defense Association’s website, where you will find details on all fifty states’ requirements.
Almost a dozen states do not require any notice to be given to the school or district. However, if the transfer is during the school year, it is wise to notify the school through certified mail to avoid the child being marked absent and creating a conflicting record. Typically, these states’ expectations are limited to things like requiring 180 days of attendance, qualified parent as teacher (high school diploma), and teaching standard subjects like English and math.
Over fifteen states require a low amount of regulation that additionally includes things like registering your homeschool and maintaining course of study records. Eighteen states maintain a moderate amount of regulation, where you may be expected to test your child on a nationally standardized achievement test, submit a letter of intent to homeschool each year, and provide a notice of closing your homeschool when moving out of state, in addition to the other requirements already mentioned.
The final five states are considered heavily regulated with the added requirements of keeping a properly evaluated portfolio, filing quarterly reports, and—in the case of Rhode Island—potentially being subjected to further district requirements.
If your child is involved in any kind of legal matter (custody, foster care, truancy issues, etc.,) it is also wise to consult officials on any extra documentation needed in order to avoid delays or complications.
Am I Qualified to Teach My Children?
Aside from filling out various forms of paperwork, the general requirement for teaching kids at home is a high school diploma/GED, but not all states require this. A willingness to learn and share that experience with your child is all that is really needed. Every teacher is going to have gaps in their knowledge or experience that will need to be supported in some way. With a little bit of online research, a handful of library books, and some advice from those who have been there, most educational hurdles can be overcome just fine.
When mom is the primary teacher, it is common for dad, aunts, uncles, or grandparents to step in occasionally to help carry the load. In my case, I married an engineer who definitely fills in the cracks for me when it comes to things like math and science. The personal knowledge that comes from raising a child thus far gives you the core of what you need in order to educate him or her at home. The rest is easily gathered when needed.
Is Homeschooling Expensive?
The cost of homeschooling completely depends upon your choices. The necessities of homeschooling are access to basic school supplies, a public library, and the internet. Beyond those three elements, the rest is discretionary. There are free curricula online, but for those who require more, there is a host of options out there. SchoolhouseTeachers.com and the Homeschool Review Crew are great resources to utilize in determining what best fits the needs of your family for curriculum, planning, and budget options.
What About Sports & Extracurricular Activities?
Every community has different options, but as homeschooling grows, so do the opportunities. Local co-ops are a great place to enrich your family’s friendships and sense of community. In many areas, there are a growing number of homeschool sports, theater groups, library classes, choirs, bands, orchestras, and even 4-H clubs. Public and private schools also often permit homeschool students to participate in extracurricular activities, and don’t forget city league recreation teams like soccer and baseball.
If you are considering pulling your child from public school for the first time, remember that you are not alone. There are amazing families walking this same road who are more than happy to share their experiences with you. Finally, God has blessed you with the opportunity to educate your child. Know He will continue to be your constant companion as you navigate this next chapter.
Copyright 2019, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.
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